Engaging the Gospel – Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord (Year C): Gospel – Luke 24:46-53

“Jesus’ final apparition [to the disciples] ends with the irreversible entry of His humanity into divine glory,” His Ascension into heaven, where He is “exalted at the Father’s right hand” (Catechism paragraphs 659-660).

“Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom” (664) and reveals that “Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history” (668).

To extend the reign of His kingdom on earth, He instructs His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, a command handed down the ages, even to our own day.

In one respect, “the Church is catholic [literally, ‘universal’] because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (831).

As the Vatican II document Lumen gentium states,

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: He made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all His children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one (quoted in 831).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I express solidarity with fellow Christians around the world?

Prayer of Petition

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2629-33:

Petition is a form of prayer in which we ask the Lord for what we need.

First and foremost is our need for forgiveness: because our relationship with God is the “one thing necessary,” we want to preserve it, protect it, and nurture it above all else. Each and every sin frays this relationship, and mortal sin ruptures it (which is why we seek an encounter with the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to heal and restore it).

When we realize that we have hurt God, and others, through our faults and failings, we are moved to ask for His mercy. Sometimes we can fall into the bad habit of taking sin lightly and treating forgiveness as a mere formality. While God is eager to forgive, He wants us to repent truly, and recognize sin for the evil that it is.

So important is it to ask for forgiveness, that the Catechism describes it as a “prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer.”

Another vital need for which we pray is the coming of the Kingdom, as Jesus taught us. This petition involves not only beseeching the Lord to bring salvation history to its culmination, but also asking that we may receive His help in striving toward, and cooperating with, the Kingdom’s coming.

Because “the seed and beginning of the Kingdom” on earth is the Church, our petition for the Kingdom also involves the building up, the flourishing, of the Church here in the world.

Of course, we have many other needs in our daily lives, and we are encouraged to bring these too – even the small ones – before the Lord in our prayers of petition: “Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in His Name.”

This is especially helpful for family prayer time, when children may be invited to offer their own petitions.

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 4:26-34

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 4:26-34

Drawing upon agricultural imagery for His parables, Jesus describes the growth of the Kingdom of God.

On the larger level, this refers to the Church “because it is in her that the Kingdom of heaven, the Reign of God, already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time.”

But at the same time, this refers to each and every one of us: our lives are to mirror the mustard seed.

“The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into Him” (Catechism 865).

Benedict XVI explores what the “Kingdom of God” means in Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1. Both the Greek word for kingdom (basileia), and the underlying Hebrew (malkut), are “action” words, referring to the dynamic quality of reigning.

“‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of His lordship” (pp. 55-56). Jesus is “the Kingdom in person,” for “He is God’s presence” (p. 49).

But He comes in “lowliness and hiddeness.” He “rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches to the end, to the Cross” (p. 61). He advances His Kingdom by attracting us through His love. If we accept God’s lordship, His Kingdom is within us, and “it grows and radiates outward from that inner space” (p. 50).

Question for reflection: What signs do I see of my own spiritual growth over time?

Engaging the Gospel – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B): Gospel – John 12:20-33

Jesus emphasizes the centrality of the Cross, in His saving mission and in the lives of everyone who would follow him.

Jesus’ “redemptive passion was the very reason for His Incarnation” (Catechism paragraph 607). Through the “great Paschal mystery – His death on the Cross and His Resurrection – He would accomplish the coming of His kingdom. ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself’” (542).

“This gathering is the Church, on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom” (541) — “born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation” (766).

Jesus calls us to follow His example of total self-giving, affirming that only by dying to ourselves can we enter eternal life. In so doing, the Lord offers each one of us “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal mystery” (618).

We experience this reality most profoundly in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. In Baptism, the descent into the water signifies “the descent into the tomb” (628), our “burial into Christ’s death,” from which we rise up “by resurrection with Him, as a new creature” (1214).

Having “become members of Christ” (1213), we are called to “become God’s fellow workers and co-workers for His kingdom” (307). We offer ourselves in union with the Lord’s sacrifice:

In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of His Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with His total offering, and so acquire a new value.

paragraph 1368.

By embracing our own crosses, we advance in the spiritual life and grow closer to Jesus: “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle” (2015).

Question for reflection: How has dying to myself helped me to follow Jesus more closely?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 1:21-28

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:21-28

Jesus exercises His power to rebuke and cast out unclean spirits

As the Catechism explains, “evil is not an abstraction” (paragraph 2851). There are malevolent spiritual beings, fallen angels who oppose God, at work in the world.

By their own free choice, “these created spirits…radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign” (392), and “they try to associate man in their revolt against God” (414).

The word “devil” comes from the Greek dia-bolos, referring to the fact that he “‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and His work of salvation accomplished in Christ” (2851).

One of the great documents of Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, reiterates that this spiritual warfare involves each one of us:

The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.

— quoted in Catechism paragraph 409.

“Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus,” his power is limited, and he “cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign” (395). Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil” (394), and victory was achieved “once and for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave Himself up to death to give us His life” (2853).

Question for reflection: When has the Lord helped me with a spiritual struggle?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and His calling of the apostles, are profoundly interrelated:

The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the ‘little flock’ of those whom Jesus came to gather around Him, the flock whose shepherd He is. They form Jesus’ true family.

–Catechism paragraph 764.

Every human being is called into this gathering (542).

First, “there is the choice of the Twelve, with Peter as their head.” Because the number of apostles represents the twelve tribes of Israel, Jesus is signifying that His gathering, the Church, is the new Israel (765).

Indeed, around the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were praying for just such a renewed gathering by God.

Benedict XVI explains that they longed for a qahal, the Old Testament word for a divinely-called assembly of the people: “a qahal coming from God himself, a new gathering and foundation of the people, increasingly became the center of Jewish hope.”

Qahal was rendered into Greek as ekklesia – the New Testament word for “Church.” By using this technical term to describe herself, the Church declares that she is the hoped-for qahal.

“This petition is granted in us…the chosen final gathering of God’s people” through Christ (Called to Communion, p. 31).

Question for reflection: How has listening to God’s call changed me?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 22:1-14

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 22:1-14

The wedding feast in this parable symbolizes the kingdom of heaven, and at the same time, is evocative of the Church as the Bride of Christ.

“The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets,” who expressed “God’s covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and faithful married love” (Catechism paragraphs 796, 1611).

This “nuptial covenant between God and His people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant” in Christ (1612).

As St. John Paul II observes, “It is not difficult to see in this wedding feast a reference to the Eucharist: the sacrament of the new and eternal covenant, the sacrament of the marriage of Christ and humanity in the Church” (September 18, 1991).

We are all called personally; no one is excluded from God’s universal invitation. But Jesus reveals that we in turn must respond appropriately. We too must enter with a “wedding garment,” as we learn from the unprepared guest in the parable.

JP II explains:

…in Israel’s world, on the occasion of great banquets, the clothes to be worn were made available to the guests in the banquet hall. This fact makes the meaning of that detail in Jesus’ parable even clearer: the responsibility not only of the person who rejects the invitation, but also of those who claim to attend without fulfilling the necessary conditions for being worthy of the banquet.

This is the case of those who maintain and profess that they are followers of Christ and members of the Church, without obtaining the ‘wedding garment’ of grace…

We must embrace this “garment” offered to us by God:

The parable emphasizes the responsibility that every guest has, whatever his or her origin, regarding the ‘yes’ which must be given to the Lord Who calls, and regarding the acceptance of His law, the total response to the demands of the Christian vocation…

December 11, 1991.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced God’s invitation to draw near to Him?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 20:1-16a

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 20:1-16a

The generous landowner in this parable symbolizes God, and the daily wage He gives to all the workers, regardless of their length of service, represents the gift of eternal life with Him.

“In the Kingdom of God, the pay or wages is God Himself,” as St. John Paul II explained:

When it comes to salvation in the Kingdom of God, it is not a question of just wages, but of the undeserved generosity of God, Who gives Himself as the supreme gift to each and every person who shares in divine life through sanctifying grace.

…When we receive a gift, we must respond with a gift. We can only respond to the gift of God in Jesus Christ — his Cross and Resurrection…with the gift of ourselves…one can never match or equal the value of God’s gift of Himself to us.

Homily of September 19, 1987.

Once we view our lives through the prism of God’s generosity, we cultivate a sense of gratitude for all of his gifts. On the other hand, if we fail to be grateful, and instead compare ourselves to others as the grumbling workers in the parable did, we open ourselves up to envy.

The sin of envy involves “sadness at the sight of another’s goods,” or conversely, “joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor.” Envy is fundamentally a “refusal of charity” because it seeks to deprive our neighbor, rather than to promote his good (Catechism paragraphs 2539-40).

Question for reflection: How do I deal with temptations to envy?

Thy Kingdom Come

Although the Kingdom of God has begun to come in Christ, and continues among us through His Real Presence in the Eucharist, and in the Church, it has not yet reached its final consummation.

We therefore pray for its perfect fulfillment, when Christ returns in glory, and hands over the Kingdom to God the Father.

By looking forward to the Lord’s coming, our minds turn to the last things – death, judgment, heaven, and hell. We recognize our own need to prepare, so that we may be ready to welcome the Lord whenever He comes for us.

The liturgical season of Advent is focused upon the theme of preparation for His coming. We most often associate Advent with salvation history, setting the stage for our celebration of Christmas, the mystery of God’s becoming a newborn baby.

But Christ’s coming is not just a single historical event. We experience many comings of the Lord: He regularly enters our hearts through His grace, pre-eminently when we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Let us reflect upon the ways that Christ comes to us, in history, in our lives, and in His ultimate return at the end of time.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2816-21.

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus “Himself is the treasure; communion with Him is the pearl of great price,” as Pope Benedict XVI explains:

The new proximity of the Kingdom of which Jesus speaks – the distinguishing feature of His message – is to be found in Jesus Himself. Through Jesus’ presence and action, God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way…In Jesus it is God Who draws near to us.

Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, pp. 60-61.

But are we really willing to follow the Lord’s parables to their conclusion, recognize Him as our treasure, and let nothing get in the way of our relationship with Him?

“The parable demands the collaboration of the learner…Especially in the case of parables that affect and transform their personal lives, people can be unwilling” to take the point to heart.

Jesus “has to lead us to the mystery of God – to the light that our eyes cannot bear and that we therefore try to escape” (p. 192).

“He shows us through everyday things who we are and what we must therefore do. He conveys knowledge that makes demands upon us…

“It is a knowledge that enriches us with a gift…But equally it is an exacting knowledge…The possibility of refusal is very real” (p. 193).

Question for reflection: Do I sometimes take the “pearl of great price” for granted?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 11:25-30

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 11:25-30

Take Jesus’ yoke upon you and find rest

Jesus presents us with paradoxes in Sunday’s Gospel. Revelation comes to the “little ones,” not to those who deem themselves wise, and by taking the Lord’s yoke upon us, we actually find true rest in Him.

These statements are integrally related: to accept the Kingdom of God, we must have a “humble and trusting heart” (Catechism paragraphs 544, 2785).

This truth contradicts our contemporary culture, which promotes pride of mind and heart. The culture often denies objective standards of morality and claims that we can fashion individual ideas of right and wrong to suit ourselves.

As St. John Paul II has observed, such moral relativism is essentially “a lack of trust in the wisdom of God, Who guides man with the moral law” (The Splendor of Truth 84).

“God, Who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of His very love,” He teaches us what is good by giving us the commandments (35).

We are authentically free, not when we try to deny the truth of God’s word, but when we embrace God’s will and choose the good (35, 84).

Jesus Himself shows us the way: “The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness” (Catechism paragraph 459). “His exclamation, ‘Yes, Father!’ expresses the depth of His heart…this loving adherence of His human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father” (2603).

Question for reflection: When have I found peace in surrendering to the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel: Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord: Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

Christ ascended into heaven and “is seated at the right hand of the Father,” preceding us into His “glorious kingdom” (Catechism paragraphs 663-666).

But Christ still dwells with us in His Church, which He took care to establish as “the seed and the beginning of the kingdom” on earth (669). Because His kingdom is to embrace all nations, so must the Church be universal, literally “catholic,” a word which derives from the Greek term meaning “universal” (830).

Just as the Father sent Christ as His Emissary, so does Jesus appoint emissaries – in Greek, apostoloi (858). Christ empowered His apostles to continue His mission all over the world, investing them with the authority to teach, sanctify, and guide His flock (857). He “promised to remain with them always,” revealing that “their office also has a permanent aspect” and that this “divine mission…will continue to the end of time” (860).

As a result the apostles designated successors, bishops, to shepherd the Church (861-862). Thus began the unbroken line, from the apostles through the successive Catholic bishops for two millennia, down to our own very day.

The preservation of this precious apostolic heritage makes the Church “catholic” in a more profound sense. The Catholic Church receives from Christ “the fullness of the means of salvation which He has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession” (830).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I try to draw others closer to the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 6:24-34

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus reassures us not to worry, but to seek the kingdom

For Blessed John Paul II, Sunday’s Gospel features “particularly touching” words about the Father’s loving care for each one of us:

With these words the Lord Jesus not only confirmed the teaching on divine Providence contained in the Old Testament. He entered more deeply into the subject as regards humanity, every single person, treated by God with the exquisite delicacy of a father…

They are said by the Son who, ‘scrutinizing’ all that has been said on the subject of Providence, bears perfect witness to the mystery of his Father, a mystery of Providence and of paternal care which embraces every creature, even the most insignificant, like the grass of the field or the sparrows. How much more, therefore, human beings!…

In this page of the Gospel on Providence we find the truth about the hierarchy of values which is present from the beginning of the Book of Genesis, in the description of creation — man has primacy over things. He has that primacy in his nature and in his spirit, he has it in the attention and care of Providence, he has it in the heart of God!

Moreover, Jesus insistently proclaimed that man, so privileged by his Creator, is duty-bound to cooperate with the gift received from Providence. He cannot be satisfied with the mere values of sense, of matter and of utility. He must seek above all ‘the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’

General Audience, May 14, 1986.

Question for reflection: What worries must I let go of and entrust to the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus begins to preach the Gospel and to call His disciples

Jesus begins his public ministry by preaching the Gospel. While “gospel” is literally translated as “good news,” the word has a much deeper meaning in its historical context, as Pope Benedict XVI has explained:

In Jesus’ time, the term ‘gospel’ was used by Roman emperors for their proclamations. Independently of their content, they were described as ‘good news’ or announcements of salvation, because the emperor was considered lord of the world and his every edict as a portent of good.

Thus, the application of this phrase to Jesus’ preaching had a strongly critical meaning, as if to say God, and not the emperor, is Lord of the world, and the true Gospel is that of Jesus Christ…an announcement that it is God who reigns, that God is Lord and that his lordship is present and actual, it is being realized.

The newness of Christ’s message, therefore, is that God made himself close in him and now reigns in our midst.

Angelus of January 27, 2008

Besides preaching the Gospel, Jesus also calls his first disciples in today’s reading.

These two actions are profoundly related: the Gospel is “the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners” (Catechism paragraph 1846), and that divine mercy invites each and every one of us to follow Jesus intimately, calling all to “the fullness of Christian life” and “to holiness” (2013).

Question for reflection: When have I sensed that the Lord was calling me?

Engaging the Gospel: First Sunday of Advent

With the coming of the new liturgical year, it’s a fitting time to begin posting about each Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Just as the ongoing Catechism summaries arose from an initiative at my parish, so did the weekly thoughts to encourage further engagement with the Gospel. This took the form of supplementary material to explore the Gospel’s theme, drawn from the Catechism and Blessed John Paul II or Benedict XVI, along with a question for reflection.

Accordingly, here is the one for Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent:

Gospel – Matthew 24:37-44: Be prepared, for the Son of Man will come unexpectedly.

The Church’s liturgical year begins with the season of Advent for a simple but profound reason: the liturgical year “in a certain way reproduces the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption” (Blessed John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 10).

Hence the Church’s year opens by preparing to celebrate Christ’s birth, and it ends by recognizing Christ’s kingship over the entire universe. During Advent, as we recall His coming into human history, we logically also look ahead to his final coming at the end of time.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to be prepared, for the end will come unexpectedly — just as suddenly as the flood destroyed Noah’s contemporaries. Just as the flood marked a new epoch in the life of the world, so will the Second Coming radically transform all of creation.

“At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness…The universe itself will be renewed…Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, ‘new heavens and a new earth'” (Catechism paragraphs 1042-43).

“The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and…God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men” (1048).

Question for reflection: In what ways am I responding to the Lord’s call to “stay awake” and prepare for His coming?

Resurrection and Last Judgment

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 988-1004, 1038-60:

  • Because the separation of soul and body in death was not what God desired for us, He will ultimately reunite them by raising our bodies on the last day.
  • The general resurrection of the dead has been an important component of Christianity from the very beginning; despite incomprehension from some and even opposition, the Church has always upheld this article of faith.
  • God had revealed the resurrection of the dead gradually to the Jewish people; by restoring the unity of our original creation, as human beings composed of body and soul, He would thereby fulfill His covenant.
  • Jesus explicitly taught this doctrine before His Passion and Death, and proved His trustworthiness with His Resurrection on Easter morning.
  • Just as Christ rose to a new life, so too will He raise us up; we receive His risen and glorified Body in the Eucharist, which gives us a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection.
  • This truth underscores the dignity and sanctity of the human body; it is among the reasons why we must respect and care for our own, and others’ bodies, and why we want to avoid sins of the flesh, that disrespect God’s gift of the body.
  • When Christ comes again, all of the dead will be raised and gathered for the Last Judgment; publicly confirming the particular judgment on each soul, Christ will also expose the ramifications of the good we did, or failed to do, on earth.
  • Then Christ, as Lord of history, will reveal the meaning of all that has happened down the ages – the triumphs and tragedies of the entire human family – and we will understand the mysterious workings of divine providence.
  • The bodies of the faithful will go on to enjoy the blessings of heaven, while the bodies of those in hell will participate in their torment.
  • The entire cosmos will be renewed and transformed, in what Scripture calls “new heavens and a new earth,” in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

Live Your Faith

Our culture promotes misleading views of the body. On the one hand, it pretends that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies, that the flesh is just a disposable container. Yet at the same time, it overemphasizes physical appearance, as if our self-worth depended on the body.

But our faith tells us the truth about ourselves: God loves us – both body and soul. He wants us to be happy with Him in this life and the next, and we will be, if we abide by His will for us in both body and soul.

Consecrated Life as a Sign

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 914-945:

  • Every Christian – each one of us, no matter our individual circumstances – is called to holiness, but some are called to give themselves totally to Christ in the consecrated life.
  • This is characterized by the profession of the “evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity in celibacy, and obedience, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church.
  • The evangelical counsels are not to be viewed in the negative sense of giving things up, but rather in the positive sense: they provide the freedom to live single-heartedly for God alone.
  • Consecrated life therefore focuses on our ultimate goal – our final destiny with God; as a result, it serves as a powerfully attractive sign of the mystery of eternal life in the Kingdom, the pearl of great price.
  • From the beginning of the Church, faithful souls have responded to God’s invitation to seek deeper union with Him; this life of intense dedication has taken various forms over the ages, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Who even now continues to raise up new communities.
  • Its most ancient expressions include hermits, who offer prayer and penance in solitude, and consecrated virgins, who are dedicated to the service of the Church.
  • Communities of monks and nuns began to form in the early centuries, often by gathering around a holy individual who became their founder; from these groups, which first arose in the Middle East, “religious life” developed.
  • Religious life is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, life led in common, public profession of vows, and witness to the union of Christ with His Church.
  • These communities reflect their own distinct spiritual heritage: e.g., the Carmelites are inspired by the prophet Elijah; the Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius Loyola; and the Benedictines, Franciscans, and Dominicans owe their names to their saintly founders.
  • Religious orders, in all of their brilliant variety, have been a great gift to the Church throughout history; they proclaim the Gospel around the world, perform innumerable works of charity, and act as prayer warriors on our behalf.

Live Your Faith

Even if not called to consecrated life, we still live by the evangelical counsels in a way proper to us.

Although not bound by a vow of poverty, we should be detached from our possessions, and generously give to those in need (including the consecrated who rely on our financial support).

The unmarried are obliged to be chaste, and spouses should be faithful to one another in marriage.

While we don’t formally profess obedience, we are encouraged to curb our selfishness and practice self-denial.

Ascension of the Lord

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 659-82:

  • During the 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus spends time with the disciples, eating, drinking, and instructing them about the Kingdom of God.
  • Christ’s final appearance ends with His Ascension into heaven, where He comes full circle: the One who came from the Father returns to Him, exalted in divine glory.
  • But Jesus, as the Word made flesh, now brings His human nature with Him into this transcendent glory; Jesus goes before us, paving the way for our humanity to take the place that He has marked out for us in heaven.
  • Thus the Ascension is not simply an historical event; it is at the same time a sign of our own ultimate destiny, if we follow the Lord.
  • Having entered the heavenly sanctuary, Christ continually intercedes for us; in this way Christ exercises His eternal priesthood.
  • Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, symbolizing the inauguration of His Kingdom, and He reigns as the Lord of the cosmos and all history.
  • The Ascension ushered in the final age of the world: Christ has already conquered, but the totality of His victory is not yet accomplished on earth.
  • Christ’s victory is still unfolding in the course of human time, until He comes again in glory at the close of history.
  • Throughout this time of watching and waiting, Christ’s kingship is present on earth through the mystery of the Church, the seed and beginning of the Kingdom; the Church must undergo trials and persecutions until the Lord returns.
  • The final realization of the Kingdom will not come about incrementally from our efforts, but rather from the action of God, when Christ appears as the Lord and Judge of the living and the dead.

Live Your Faith

As depicted in the great works of religious art, Christ enthroned in majesty is an awe-inspiring, and overwhelming, sight.

Yet this same Christ is enthroned among us, through his Eucharistic presence in the tabernacle and in the adoration chapel.

Do we feel a sense of reverential awe in His presence? Let us be ever mindful, and attentive, that the glorified Christ is here.

 

Benedict XVI on the Kingdom of God

As an interlude between Catechism summaries, it’s worth looking a bit more at the concept of the Kingdom of God.

Pope Benedict XVI discusses the Kingdom in the first volume of  Jesus of Nazareth, especially in Chapter 3.

Benedict outlines three ways of interpreting the Kingdom, drawn from the Fathers of the Church:

  • as Jesus Himself;
  • as located deep within the believer;
  • as being in close relationship to the Church.

Then he critiques a few modern theories that fall short: e.g., that the Kingdom is all about the end of the world, or that it is all about our efforts to bring about peace and justice on earth (“the secular-utopian idea”).

After mentioning that both the Hebrew and Greek words for Kingdom are action words — connoting “God’s actual sovereignty over the world” — Benedict goes on to offer his own explication of this richly evocative term, and espouses the interpretation of Jesus being the Kingdom in person:

The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now — this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship (p. 56).

The new proximity of the Kingdom of which Jesus speaks — the distinguishing feature of his message — is to be found in Jesus himself. Through Jesus’ presence and action, God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way (p. 60).

In Jesus, God is now the one who acts and who rules as Lord — rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches ‘to the end’ (Jn 13:1), to the Cross (p. 61).

…the Kingdom of God is ‘realized’ in his coming….Jesus, as the One who has come, is nonetheless the One who comes throughout the whole of history…(p. 188).

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008).